Dow Jones Newswires
The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday that sequester cuts will force it to close 149 air-traffic control towers at small airports next month, but the agency spared 24 towers it concluded are particularly important to the national airspace.
The towers are all part of the FAA’s contract-tower program, which hires third-party controllers to staff towers at some small airports. The FAA will close the 149 towers, including those in Santa Fe, N.M.; Bloomington, Ill.; and Ithaca, N.Y., over four weeks beginning on April 7.
As part of its $637 million in sequester cuts, the FAA had proposed to close 189 towers at airports with fewer than 10,000 commercial takeoffs and landings a year. But the agency recently called on airports to explain why their towers should remain open.
Those responses led the FAA to keep open 24 towers, including those at small airports in or near Denver, Miami, Mobile, Ala., and Niagara Falls, N.Y. The FAA said it considered whether the airport served as a critical diversionary airport for large hub airports, and whether the closure of the towers would significantly impact national security or the transportation and economy of the local area.
The FAA said another 16 towers that were considered for closure would remain open because they are funded by a special Congressional statute.
Commercial pilots are trained to land without the help of air-traffic controllers. Many of the airports that are losing their towers already keep them open only part time, while others operated for years without them. Some officials at those airports have said that though control towers add an extra layer of security, operations will still be safe.
The FAA said some communities will elect to fund their airport control towers on their own.